Unless you’re a sommelier, buying good wine is no easy feat. Many people default to cool labels and bottles similar to ones they’ve purchased before, and that’s their go-to strategy. Similarly, retail marketers often play to those customer behaviors and call it ‘personalization,’ rather than informing and exposing them to new and interesting products they might like.
Making relevant, accurate product recommendations is a science, and it’s a lot like making a good wine recommendation. To make a good wine recommendation, your expert will use past purchases and preferences to guide your purchase decision. They’ll consider what you already like, while encouraging you to broaden your horizons and try a different type of wine from a different year or a different region. Smart retail marketers use a similar approach, using valuable customer data to recreate the local store experience that engendered a lifetime of trust and relationships in modern marketing.
Good wine recommendations and email personalization go hand-in-hand, and by knowing and understanding your brand-building products, making smart recommendations — not just those based on past purchases — and evolving with the customer, retail marketers can make their email experience as positive as finding the perfect wine.
Know and understand your brand-building products
How do people make purchase decisions? Maybe they like the cool label, or in the case of email, the creative. But that’s not a best practice for choosing wine or showcasing your best products that will keep customers coming back again and again. Recognize that your customers need help; not everyone is going in with a particular item in mind, so help them out.
For example, the starting premise of the conversation shouldn’t be, “I see you bought some Wolf Blass, here is some other terrible wine you might want to buy.” An overlooked part of personalization is the understanding of what your brand-building products are. Not all parts of your product catalog are ones that keep customers coming back for more, so be sure to give customers options and guide the purchase decision.
Recommendations based on past purchases aren’t enough
Imagine a scenario where you are the wine connoisseur and a customer walks into the liquor store asking you to construct her a case of wine. She’ll set the parameters for selection, and may revert to old favorites, but she’ll also be on the lookout for new finds. You might not agree with all the wine she picks, but the idea is not to select for her, but to optimize her choices—a crucial step on the road to righteous wine drinking.
The point? Consumers are always looking for something new that they haven’t tried before. Where personalization can go wrong is defaulting to products that the person has previously bought or pushing your own business agenda on the customer: “We want to sell all of this new, fruity Pinot Grigio, even though you prefer full-bodied reds.” It’s great to offer new products, but make sure the customers’ tastes are always the leading factor.
Recommendations are always on a trial basis, and must evolve with the customer
As a retail marketer or a wine expert, you have the opportunity to influence the outcome, but can only do this effectively if you know the customer. While not everyone will come back to the liquor store to tell you what they did and didn’t like about the case of wine you built them, retail marketers have the advantage of data on their side. This arms marketers with the metaphorical ability to construct another, better case of wine, still based on what the customer would pick, but now more refined, based on the feedback.
This relationship not only makes the customer happy, but also builds trust and opens their eyes to more of your product catalog. People’s tastes and moods are constantly changing, which means marketers’ recommendations are always on trial. Does the content we send to customers tell them that you’re listening to them? Does it afford you the opportunity to say more, or does it convince them to tune you out? Make sure to take these questions into consideration.
Choosing the perfect wine doesn’t always happen on the first try, but helping customers along the way is a vital part of building loyal, long-lasting relationships, and in turn, exposing customers to, and selling more of your products. Listen, learn and apply that knowledge to your recommendations, whether you’re selling Rosé or running shoes.
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on MarTechExec.